This guide is meant to help you get started with finding resources for your History of Medicine paper. Below, you'll find tips on how to select a topic, as well as a number of suggested books, journals, and web resources.
The history of medicine is a fascinating topic!! There are a multitude of topics to choose from -- the scandalous (barber surgeons, anatomy murder), the fringe (faith healings and hypnotism), and the forgotten (animal magnetism). There are the treatments that have fallen out of favor (bloodletting), those we'd like to forget (treating the "mentally ill" or treating women for hysteria), and even alternative cures that have evolved to become more mainstream ("the cold water cure," i.e., hydrotherapy).
Some herbs have fascinating histories (Belladonna, for example). You could also select a treatment model linked to a particular culture (curanderismo,witch doctors, Shamanism, or even African American folk medicine) or to a place or time period (women healers in medieval Europe, TCM in communist China). You could select a larger treatment model (such as midwifery, or the history of Qigong), but this can sometimes be more difficult -- TCM has a very long history, and your paper is not going to be a ten-volume reference set. It may be easier to narrow such topics down to a specific time period (such as midwifery in the middle ages).
If you are having trouble selecting a topic, try browsing some general medical history resources for ideas. Some places to start: books in the History of Medicine section (call numbers starting with WZ); NLM's History of Medicine section; browse Wikipedia or other encyclopedia resources such as Historyworld.net.
NOTE: Many of the links in this section are to Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a great source for doing exploratory research, but never quote Wikipedia in an academic paper! Wikipedia can be a great place to get ideas about your topic, learn about some major themes, and get links to outside resources, but you'll need to find academic sources (such as journal articles, books and reputable web resources) to support your paper.
Narrow your searchBrainstorm about the topic you are interested in researching. For example: are there different treatment options or new acupuncture or herbal therapies that are of particular interest to you? You might start by doing a quick search in PubMed’s History of Medicine subset (see database section for more info). Is there existing research on this topic? You can browse through the existing research to see if this is a topic you want to pursue, or if you need to broaden your search.
Broaden your search
Rather than focusing on a very specific type of treatment, you may want to try broadening it a bit. Instead of researching the history of pediatric tuina, why not expand to other oriental massage techniques – this will allow you to explore not just tuina, but shiatsu and other bodywork techniques as well. If you are researching the historical uses of garlic in China, you might think about broadening to the historical use of garlic everywhere; just searching a specific country could potentially be too narrow of a topic.
Browse the library for materials in the History of Medicine section (WZ) -- that's at the far end of the book stacks. But don't stop there! There are more history books scattered throughout the collection. Try doing a search for "history of medicine" in our library catalog.
OHSU has an extensive collection of materials on the history of medicine, so be sure to extend your search by clicking on the "OCOM" dropdown menu and selecting "OCOM + PAHL" -- this will show you materials from OHSU, NUNM, and UWS Library collections as well as OCOM's collection. For TCM treatments, try looking at books for that specific treatment or modality. For example, if you are looking at the history of hysteria, you could browse the mental health (WM) section. Many books will have an introduction that will give a brief history of the subject – take a look at these, as they may have timelines and can help lead your research in new directions. Here are some examples of more general history-specific books:
- Celestial lancets : a history and rational of acupuncture and moxa by Gwei-Djen Lu (WZ 70 JC6 G995c 1980)
- The cure within : a history of mind-body medicine by Anne Harrington (WB 900 H299c 2008)
- Nature cures : the history of alternative medicine in America by James C. Whorton (WB 935.6 W628n 2002)
- History of medicine : a scandalously short introduction by Jacalyn Duffin (WZ 40 D857h 2010)
- Medicine in China : a history of ideas by Paul Unschuld (WZ 70 JC6 U5mc 1985)
- Planet medicine : origins by Richard Grossinger (QV 11 G878p 2005)
- Needles, herbs, gods and ghosts : China, healing, and the West to 1848 by Linda L. Barnes (WZ 70 JC6 B262n)
You can also expand your search in Primo Library Search to encompass books from OHSU (who has a large amount of western medicine history books), NUNM (information about herbal history), UWS (chiropractic), and other online resources using the OCOM + PAHL + Selected Articles scope.
Use the MeSH database to discover topics of interest and build a search strategy. MeSH is a controlled vocabulary used for indexing articles for EBSCO’s MEDLINE and PubMed. By limiting the terminology used, a controlled vocabulary attempts to provide a more consistent way to retrieve information. In other words, the database will apply specific terminology for multiple concepts in an effort to group them in one place (for instance, the terms cancer and tumor are re-directed to the single term neoplasms in MeSH). The MeSH Browser is great place to uncover associated and related terms for your topic.
Examples of useful MeSH terms:
- Drugs, Chinese Herbal/history
- Health Policy*/history
- History, 20th Century
- Medicine, Chinese Traditional/*history
You can just copy and paste the subject heading into your search bar, and you should come up with a pretty decent list of results. If you find one article that you are interested in, you can look at the MeSH terms and snowball from there.
If you want to narrow down your search, you could add additional MeSH terms. If you were investigating the use of medicinal herbs in medieval Europe, you could search:
(Phytotherapy/history OR Plants, Medicinal*) AND Europe AND (History, 15th Century OR History, 16th Century OR History 17th Century OR History, Medieval)
View this search in Pubmed
That is a comprehensive search, but you could also simplify it by just searching just a few subject headings. For example, if you were searching the modern history of food, you could search:
Food/*history AND History, Modern 1601- (view this search in Pubmed).
But if you were looking specifically for food in China, you could add “China” to your search.
You can use MeSh terms in both PubMed or EBSCO. EBSCO allows you to build a complex search using the MeSH thesaurus, while PubMed has just a simple interface that works best with "mathematical" boolean formulas - I would suggest trying out both and seeing which interface you like more.